Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Watching Cartoons with Lily: Gravity Falls

I mentioned to my friend Eric one time that I didn't like Phineas and Ferb and he was surprised, because it's about two precocious kids building these wildly imaginative projects week after week. But another thing that happens week after week is that Phineas and Ferb's big sister tries to tell her mom that her younger brothers are building a nuclear reactor or an anti-matter engine in their backyard, but circumstances always conspire to destroy the evidence. And I'm not all "Won't someone think of the children?!" but humiliating a female character when she oversteps her bounds is something with a a long and ugly history. And while I'm sure it's not what the creators of the show intended when they established this schtick, there it is, and it's the awareness of this that prevents me from really enjoying the show, because I know this is lurking in the conclusion of every episode.

And I don't really think about the show much. There's enough good stuff out there that this is one situation where I'm more than willing to ignore the stuff I don't like, but to bring it up for context. When I first saw an ad for Gravity Falls, the art reminded me of P&F and I think one of the blurbs came right out and compared them. So I was like, "Looks like this is another show I'll be skipping!" And aside from maybe the random ad here and there, I don't think I thought about it for months. We got rid of cable in favor of streaming the stuff we're going to watch and thus we don't even see random commercials any more.  But one time I was talking about Ben Franklin and Lily was like, "Was he a lady?" and I was like "No! Where did you hear that?" and she said "Gravity Falls," and I shook my fist at the heavens and cried out "GRAVITY FALLS!!!!!!"  I looked just like Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption.

And then another couple weeks passed and my buddy Tim came down for a visit and he brought an episode of Gravity Falls with him. And I was like, "Fine, I'll check this stupid thing out. Anything to shut you up."

Actually, I was a bit more receptive, because his tastes tend to be similar to mine and his instincts are usually good with regard to these things. The episode was "Fight Fighters", where Dipper enters a secret code in to a fighting game and brings the character of Rumble McSkirmish to life.

I liked the show immediately. That episode was the perfect introduction to the series for me. The pixel animation was done by Paul Robertson, the animator for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the Game, so I already knew I liked his style. The jokes were a wonderful sendup of the occasionally ridiculous fighting game genre.

And so, we sought out the other episodes. My favorite episodes of the Simpsons were always those where Bart and Lisa work together, and Gravity Falls had the same vibe. I sprung forth fully formed from the brow of Zeus and was raised by a pack of wolves, a bear and a panther, so I never had siblings, but I always wanted some. The part I really like in Gravity Falls is during the opening sequence, (which is a rocking tune) when twins Dipper and Mabel are walking through the oddities of the Mystery Shack and they see something cool and Mable wordlessly turns and smiles at her brother, knowing that he would appreciate it too. It's just such a loving and human gesture.

The main characters are Dipper and Mabel, fraternal twins sent to live with their Grunkle (Great Uncle) Stan in the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. I described the show as a bit like an animated version of Eerie, Indiana, which would have been the ideal frame of reference had anyone else actually remembered that show. It was about a small town where weird stuff happens and so is Gravity Falls.

It's hard to say who I like more, Dipper or Mabel. I was certainly like Dipper at that age (and at twice that age, for that matter) prone to making lists and over-analyzing situations, so there is a certain identification  there, but Mabel is voiced by Kristen Schaal in an inspired bit of casting and she gets all the best lines. On reflection, I think you can't have one without the other, and it's the combo of Dipper and Mabel that I really enjoy, as they play off each other's foibles. 


I can sometimes enjoy kids as protagonists. I thought the early Harry Potter books did it extremely well and so does Gravity Falls. Kids aren't all that far behind in their straight up reasoning ability than adults. They simply have a smaller base of experience to draw upon than adults. Indeed, a lot of the time, adults (at least the adults I know) are on autopilot and don't experience things the way kids do.

I like the supporting cast too. Of particular note is Linda Cardellini as Wendy, the object of Dipper's crush.

 I've liked Cardellini since her Freaks & Geeks days, and she's one of those actors for whom I'll watch a movie just because she's in it. Wendy's demeanor (and name, I realize on reflection) are similar to the character of Lindsey from F&G and I don't think that's a coincidence. 

It's also a tightly plotted  show, loaded  with a bunch of Easter Eggs. My favorite has to be the character who appeared in the background in a couple episodes. He's later shown to be a time traveller ("No, Time Baby!") , in charge of cleaning up temporal anomalies. It's good, silly fun, sometimes poignant, sometimes just absurd, but always entertaining.

Dipper: Hey, hey! Let go of my sister!
Gnome: Oh, hey there. You know, this is all really just a big misunderstanding. You see, your sister's not in any danger. She's just marrying all 1000 of us and becoming our gnome queen for all eternity. Isn't that right, honey?
Mabel: You guys are butt-faces!

No comments:

Post a Comment